Dear CMO:
Let’s talk about competitive “blinders”. The ones you put on when you talk about “the competition” — the ones that say, “we know who our competitors are,” and fail to take into consideration the trivial, the comic, and the beneath-your-contempt minor players who don’t even qualify to hit your radar screen.
Chimps with spears, for example.
Let me tell you a story or two. Once upon a time, back in about 1990 while touring the Mercedes factory in Sindelfingen, I asked the VP of Marketing who he thought his real competition was. BMW, he said, with a chopping motion of his hand. Very decisive. I asked whether he thought those new Japanese brands — Lexus, Infiniti — were anything to worry about. He laughed.
Another flashback. I was the lone recording media guy in the packed room at Sony during the launch of the ill-fated MiniDisc when the subject of MP3 came up. This went over about as well as boxed wine at a Saveur weekend getaway. Noses shot towards the ceiling. Someone passed around a Rio player. No one would listen to this. Sound quality is no good. Not a serious device. Not to worry.
And now, we learn that chimps are learning to hunt with spears and other weapons of their own making.
I don’t know about you, but this scares the hell out of me. It’s only a matter of time, I guess, before they test a nuke.
My point being this. We all like our blinders. They fit comfortably. They help us avoid seeing unpleasant things. But they’re dangerous because what we don’t see coming will stab us with monkey-like ferocity when and where we least expect it.
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Key Takeaways:
> Your bias, and your blinders, can kill you. Competition in the form of new entrants, new technologies, and other easy to dismiss characters in your peripheral vision need to be filtered. You need to acknowledge their presence and continually scan for others like them.
> Anyone who says they’re your competitor might just be right. Not all killer competitors came from the “high and to the right” side of the graph. Look at the low cost entries, the guys who scrapped their way up the food chain.
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Did Sony ever think Samsung — a Korean company — would take its place on top of the consumer electronics brand hill? No, they sure didn’t. The Koreans made cheap TV’s with no IP. They didn’t get industrial design. Things have changed.
Beware the chimps with spears. You’ve been warned.



PS: There’s a political blog post just aching to come out here. I won’t do it. I won’t!